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My Failed Military Career And Why I’m Thrilled About It

May 7, 2015

Can you tell me what you remember, Mr Bliss?

Well, they took blood from my arm and then it started to hematoma. The blood under my skin got to be about the size of my thumb. The orderly was working on it and then I sort of passed out.

Do you often pass out at the sight of blood?

Yeah, sometimes.

We’re not sure anyone has explained to you what a soldier does. I think the Army is going to pass on your application. 

And that was the end of my short, but uneventful military career. I was at the army recruiting station trying to enlist in the National Guard. I was a non-contract ROTC cadet at the time. That means, I was taking the classes, but I had not yet committed to becoming an officer and I also was not yet getting paid for it. 

I was very disappointed. My lovely wife? She was mostly relieved. In some ways, in the important ways, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

Yesterday, I told the story of my daughter. (The Nine Year Old Female Soldier.) 

She knew from the time she was a child what she wanted to do with her life. I have a lot of kids, 13 in fact. The youngest is 12 years old. Each of them has told me what they want to be when the grow up. Sometimes their goals change week to week. Katrina is the only one that set her goal and then pursued it with unrelenting passion and dedication. 

I’m a computer geek. 

Like the term “redneck,” geek is both an insult and a complement. True geeks claim the title with pride as a complement. Those who are not geeks shun the label. 

I’m a true geek. At least I try to be. I’ve spent a lifetime in the computer industry. I had the fortunate circumstance to get involved in computers just as the industry was taking off. I worked for Microsoft for nearly 10 years, during the glory years. The stock price was a rocket that was on a pretty steep trajectory. It made a lot of people, a lot of money including me. 

I don’t have a lot of money today. I have something more valuable. And I owe it to failing that Army physical all those years ago. 

My career goals in college were constantly changing. I was an engineering major, then switched it a couple times. I decided to follow my brother’s footsteps into the ROTC. I had a ball as a cadet. The ROTC program at BYU was like Boy Scouts for college kids. . .with guns. It also seemed like a good way to pay for school. The plan was you join ROTC and also join a local National Guard unit. As a cadet, they put you in a special category. You’re not quite an officer, but not exactly an enlisted person. When you graduate and get your commission, you already have a unit and a position. 

You make money for most of the various activies: joining the Guard, going on drills, signing a contract with ROTC. 

That failed physcial put that track in jeapordy. I could still pursue the ROTC route and get a commission and join the military, but I would miss the Guard money. Instead I was presented with another opportunity. 

A friend and fellow student, told me about working for WordPerfect corporation. It was a computer company in Orem, UT. It paid a lot better than the Guard, and there was the added benefit that I actually knew something about computers already. Not that it was a requirement back in 1989. (Back To Where It All Began.)

I realized at the time that I was at a crossroads. I couldn’t see very far down the path on either side, but I knew that if I chose one path (either military or computers) I was automatically shutting off the other path forever. I met with one of my military instructors. I prayed about it. I pondered. I talked to my lovely wife. (Her opinion was clearly for computers.) And finally, I made the difficult decision to abandon my military career before it really started, and pursue a career in computers. 

When did you make the decision that brought you to the place you are today in your career? I made it as a young married college student accepting a job at WordPerfect. I had no way of knowing at the time that I had just made the most important choice in my life and I got it absolutely right. 

My career at WordPerfect eventually led me to Microsoft and the miracle of stock options and a rising stock price. My portfolio looked awesome. Although in hindsight it was too heavily weighted in company stock. As my career progressed and my bank account grew, so did my young family, as we added children. 

It soon became obvious that my lovely wife would not be able to bear more than three birth children. We both came from large families and wanted a large family ourselves. The decision to adopt was an easy one. I was adopted by my stepfather. My brother and sister have adopted kids. It was not a big deal. 

What is was, was very expensive. 

I have several friends who have not been blessed with birth children. Some have adopted. Some would like to adopt, but struggle to pay for it. Even an inexpesive adoption is several thousands of dollars. An expensive adoption can be fourty or fifty thousand dollars. International adoptions are typically the most expensive. 

We eventually adopted 10 kids, nine of them internationally. And thanks to that failed physical back as a young college kid, I was able to just pay the cost without a second thought. By choosing a career in computers instead of the Army I set myself on a path to financial riches. We were able to write checks for most of the adoption expenses. Had I been able to join the Army that day so many years ago, it is unlikely that I would have been able to afford to grow my family through adoption the way I have. 

The money is all gone now. Thanks to adoption expenses and then a market crash in 2000, I’m back to a typical middle-class lifestyle. Computer jobs still pay well, of course. But, nothing like the heady days of Microsoft’s glory days. 

I don’t have a big bank account any more. I have something a lot more valuable. And I owe it all to fact that the Army didn’t want a soldier who faints at the sight of blood. 

I’ve never been so happy to fail a test. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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